Winning Friends, Losing Ground: States and Local Communities Need a Federal Partner to Protect the Nation's Farmland

One of the most effective methods for protecting key agricultural areas from the effects of urban sprawl has been to offer farmers the opportunity to be compensated for voluntarily agreeing not to subdivide or develop their property, known as purchase of development rights (PDR), or purchase of agricultural conservation easements (PACE). As PACE programs gain favor in agriculture communities, the limited capacity of states and local agencies to satisfy the demand for PACE has meant that many farmers who need cash have little choice but to sell land for development. Urban sprawl creates pressure on prime farmland, which results in the loss of environmental benefits from keeping farmland in agricultural production. PACE programs, a “win-win” proposition, are operated by both states and local jurisdictions, usually with a local committee of farmers who help decide which farmland is targeted for protection. Altogether, state agencies and local governments have invested more than $664 million to protect almost 400,000 acres of generally high-quality farmland, however, for every farmer who has been able to take advantage of an alternative to development, another six landowners are waiting in line to sell agricultural conservation easements. Clearly, states and localities need help in meeting farmers’ demands for a viable alternative to development, and the federal government, through conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, should and must become part of the solution through expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and through changes in the 1995 Farm Bill.

Downloadable Documents: 
Author: 
Edward Thompson, Jr.
Publisher: 
Washington, DC: American Farmland Trust
Page Numbers: 
24
Publication Date: 
July 1, 1995
Literature Category: 
Reports and Studies